It’s hot in Scotland County this time of year. It is in the Sandhills region of North Carolina, 75 miles or so southwest of Raleigh, and the sun beats down hard and the sandy soil holds it. For some residents, relief is found in the cool, dark waters of the Lumber River, the coldest water this side of your icebox, some residents say.
But finding relief for chronic high unemployment rates and a poverty rate nearly double the state average isn’t so easy. Scotland County has perennially been in that predicament.
With Republicans in Raleigh going on the cheap when it comes to helping local communities and lagging far behind their promises to deliver more jobs upon taking control of the General Assembly in 2010, things aren’t easier for the people of this rural county.
But facing steep hills to recovery, the county’s people, many descended from sturdy Scottish immigrants dating to the late 18th century, have decided they’re going to go up those hills.
Sudden recovery isn’t going to come with billion-dollar employers rushing in, but Scotland County’s business people have decided to do their part and then some, and other communities in North Carolina could do likewise.
Nic’s Pic Kwik, in the Wagram crossroads town, has a deal for any employer who’s committed to creating at least 50 jobs. Nic’s is going to donate $1,000 in gas and merchandise and offer a free car wash each week for 52 weeks. This is a store of modest means, where ice cream sells big on summer days and fried chicken is good the year round. One thousand bucks is a sacrifice. But the store is willing to make it if it can put some neighbors to work.
Danny Caddell, owner of the State Farm Insurance agency in Laurinburg, the county seat, is promising new businesses that create jobs six months of free rent in his building on South Main Street. He says, “One thing I would say about this community is we’re not happy or satisfied about sitting back and taking what falls off the tree. We want to shake that tree.”
More than 60 businesses in the county are offering incentives that county Chamber of Commerce officials estimate add up to $200,000.
A state business recruiter said just as important as the money is the symbolism of a county that’s “ready to do what they can” to draw business.
There have been victories, from the company that makes metal buildings to a tissue paper manufacturer to an auto parts maker. Yes, it’s one step at a time. But determined business people are taking that step.